LOS ANGELES (AP) — When O.J. Simpson told a Nevada parole board last week that he’s led a “conflict-free life,” he seemed to overlook a few episodes that had him cycling in and out of courtrooms and jail cells for nearly 20 years before the Las Vegas hotel-room heist that sent him to prison in 2008.
There was a wife-beating charge in 1989 that he pleaded no contest to, a road-rage charge he was acquitted of in 2001 and a contempt-of-court citation in 2008 that put him in jail for five days.
There was also, of course, the 1994 murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Acquitted by a criminal jury in 1995, the football hero and Hollywood star was found liable for the killings in civil court two years later and ordered to pay the victims’ families $33.5 million.
“The idea that he believes that he’s led a conflict-free life shows a certain delusion that he’s been very noted for throughout his career,” said veteran Hollywood crisis publicist Michael Levine.
In the wife-beating case, Simpson was accused of attacking Nicole Brown Simpson on New Year’s Day 1989, angrily telling police it was a “family matter.” Then, fearing he would be arrested, he fled in his Rolls-Royce, according to police.
Officers reported they arrived at Simpson’s Los Angeles home before dawn to find Nicole Brown Simpson screaming, “He’s going to kill me!” They said she had a cut lip, a swollen and blackened left eye and cheek, and a handprint still visible on her neck.
She called 911 again, eight months before she was killed, to report Simpson had broken down a door to get into her home and was threatening to beat her. He could be heard screaming angrily in the background.
When the 70-year-old Simpson told his parole board Thursday, “I’ve basically had a conflict-free life, you know,” the remark lit up social media with derision and disbelief.
“A conflict-free life,” Ron Goldman’s father, Fred, asked incredulously Saturday. “This is who he is. He’s a sociopath, a narcissistic liar, a murderer, a thug, a kidnapper, a robber. The list goes on.”
Of course all those conflicts occurred before Simpson had nine years in prison to realize he was not above the law. Will he remember that after he gets out in October?
“I would guess that there is some message that got through to him, a deterrence message about having to take the criminal justice system seriously,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson.
“But you know, staying on the right path is difficult for anybody who gets out of prison,” added Levenson, a former federal prosecutor. “And for O.J., who there is going to be a tremendous amount of public spotlight on, it may be particularly challenging.”
The moment he slips up, she said, there will be an army of people waiting to push the record button on their cellphones. And he could end up getting sent back to prison.
One of the most valuable things he learned behind bars, Simpson said at his parole hearing, came in an “Alternative to Violence” class that taught him “how to talk to people instead of fighting.”
That seemingly would have been useful when he got into that road-rage dispute in Florida with a driver who accused him of trying to snatch the glasses off his face. Simpson denied trying to take the glasses, testifying his fingerprints must have gotten on them when he accidentally bumped him as both were shouting at each other.
In 2002 he nearly got locked up when he pleaded not guilty to speeding his boat through one of Florida’s manatee-protected zones, then didn’t show up in court. After a judge issued a warrant for his arrest, he paid the fine.
He didn’t fare as well in 2008 after he sent an angry, expletive-filled message to one of his co-defendants in the hotel-room robbery after the judge specifically ordered him not to contact any co-defendants. She jailed him for five days until he promised not to do it again.
Simpson has argued all along — and repeated on Thursday — that he was only trying to retrieve some of his mementos when he and five others barged into that Las Vegas hotel room in 2007 and robbed two sports memorabilia dealers.
Levine, the crisis publicist, said that his best advice to Simpson would be to stay out of sight after he gets out and, when someone tries to goad him into an argument, turn the other cheek.
“If he doesn’t,” Levine said, “he’s hours away from being back in license-plate-making school.”
Associated Press Writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this story.